Living in the “Physical Real”… Or not

Response to Turkle’s Alone Together, Chapters 8-10:

Of all the reading I am doing for my graduate studies, and trust me, that’s a lot of reading, Alone Together is the most interesting and engaging. Turkle uses anecdotes of individuals she interviewed in order to illustrate particular concepts about new media and culture. For me, what makes this book fantastic, and thusly, helpful on my journey to learn new media, is that I can put myself in the shoes of those described in the book. I understand what they are going through and I get why they do what they do.

One particular story stood out to me. In chapter 8, Turkle designates a segment called, “The New State of Self: From Life to Life Mix.”

It is not uncommon for people who spend a lot of time on Second Life and role-playing games to say that their online identities make them feel more like themselves than they do in the physical real. This is play certainly, but it is serious play.

Turkle describes Pete a man who has a wife and children in the “physical real” and another wife in the game Second Life. Yep, you read it correctly… Two. Wives. Pete calls it his “life mix.” The idea that he can have multiple lives, a new one in every internet realm, gives him an opportunity to make his physical real self better because he can construct it from pieces of his other selves. Turkle says,

We have gone from multitasking to multi-lifing.

His story is fascinating and although I think it’s very very wrong, I totally understand. The Internet provides this whole realm where you can be whomever you want. You can experience a completely different set of environments because through the Internet you are someone else. Someone who is not beautiful, can be. Those who lack courage, are emboldened.

Later, Chapter 9, Turkle addresses what she calls, “presentation anxiety.” She talks to high school and college students who antagonize over what information should and should not become part of the online image. Every social media network requires us to create a profile. These profiles need to be constantly updated and for some this is a strenuous exercise. It reminded me of a meme I came across on Facebook a while ago (shown below).

Why are we so concerned with our online "image?" Why do we worry about how it compares to others?

Why are we so concerned with our online “image?” Why do we worry about how it compares to others?

The quote above is a great summation. Online profiles are highlight reels. We only include the most flattering pictures, the most exciting vacations, the most dynamic tidbits of our lives. Every element is hand picked by us in order to present our best selves. For some reason, we don’t take those same factors into account when we view the profiles of others. To us, those people are that interesting naturally. We can’t imagine [insert perfect person you know, love, but secretly envy] taking 50 pictures and only using 1 the way we do. But the truth is that’s exactly what [insert same person from above] does.

To be yourself to great but to be someone else is altoegther greater.

Reading about the early feminism movement 

In my ample free time, i.e. time I should have been doing graduate school work, I’ve been reading Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman. It’s fascinating non-fiction about William Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman, the women of his life (all of them were feminists and birth control advocates) and their influence on what later became the Wonder Woman comic strip.

They were all amazing women — all white, all middle and upper class. Continue reading

The Key to this is Monopoly

New Media Studies is a very broad field of study; its students could end up just wondering through different classes without really creating a coherent set of skills for themselves. In order to avoid that, my professor challenged us to critically examine our plans for our time here at DePaul and present them creatively, by drawing a map.

Here’s a good time for me to make a confession. I am NOT creative. The simplest of creative tasks are usually quite challenging for me, so I’m quite proud of the creative spurt I had during this class.

An example of a plan of courses and skills for a student of new media studies

The Monopoly inspired plan I created for my Proseminar class. Please click to enlarge.

I was inspired by my favorite childhood board game, Monopoly. I turned each cluster of classes or skills into a square on the board. All the squares were given names based the cluster it represented plus a street, drive, circle, boulevard, etc. in in order to go along with the names of properties in Monopoly. It also includes a “DISTRACTION!” square which is the equivalent of jail and Internship and Graduation squares which are similar  to chance. Of course, I gave the Dream Job Boulevard the same space as the most coveted Boardwalk in the real game.

When I shared my design with the class a few of my colleagues found it interesting, so I thought I would share it here as well. My classmate Robert, of Robert’s Hilarious Design Blog, said the Monopoly game was a good idea because life is like it, a mix of good and bad.

I’m so glad for this assignment. It really helped me see exactly what my goals are. After feeling like I spent the entirety of my undergraduate career confused, clarity is a beautiful thing.

Inequality within an Information Ecology

Ain’t gone be no conflict. I’m the only one who bought the iPads so I’m the only one who gets to make the plan.

This is what my mother said when I asked her what conflicts she foresaw arising from her regulation of my brother and sister’s iPads. I was interviewing her because I was analyzing my family using an information ecology metaphor, as constructed by Bonnie Nardi and Vick O’Day in Information Ecologies. “In information ecologies, the spotlight is not on technology, but on human activities that are served by technology.” (Nardi & O’Day, 1999, 49) The authors use the ecology metaphor because it allows for the most complete analysis of the relationship between humans and technology. Using this analysis, Nardi and O’Day argue that all members of the ecology should be included in the conversation when planning to introduce a new technology into an information ecology. That being said, what I think the authors are missing from their analysis is role of power.

What happens to an ecology where open discussion just isn’t possible? 

In the case of my information ecology, my mother was expressing an unwillingness to even include my siblings in the conversation. When I went to write my paper, I noticed that Nardi and O’Day do not address this in their book. They do give an example of an ecology where all parties were not included in the plan for the ecology but they do not provide suggestions of how to help get all parties involved and balance the scales, how to get the conversation started. The example in the book led to mistrust and strained relationships between the people within the ecology. I don’t want that to happen in my family.

Nardi and O’Day say, “just talk — has the power to change things…” (75) That’s only if you can get a health conversation started.

So… Jeff Rice came to lecture about Beer?

Last week, Jeff Rice from University of Kentucky visited DePaul’s Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse to lecture about his coming book, Craft Identity. It’s all about social media and society told through the lens of craft beer. Rice is really seriously into craft beer.

The flyer for Jeff Rice's Lecture at DePaul Univeristy on October 21.

The flyer for Jeff Rice’s Lecture at DePaul Univeristy on October 21.

I noticed immediately that Rice is heavily influenced by Marshall McLuhan, the author of The Medium is the Massage.

A short aside: McLuhan is extremely abstract. He argues that society is now governed by print media rules, logical uninterrupted arguments that flow from beginning to end. But digital media now dominate we continue to judge digital media by print media standards.

Now back to Rice. He argues that to understand the power of social media we have to throw out the print standard that arguments flow from one complete thought to the next. In social media, it’s more like a series of thoughts that interrupt and overlap each other and make a complete argument or pattern.

Now comes the interesting part, he made this argument by writing his book as a series of thoughts that interrupt and overlap each other. It was an interesting concept, although a little hard to follow, given the venue.

After a serious mulling and a talk with a professor who attended the lecture as well, I was able to piece together the description above.  I’m certain Craft Identity will be required or recommended reading for one of my upcoming classes. I hope I will better understand once I am able to read to whole book for myself.

Find Rice’s other books here.

Drawing a Blank… I forget everything

So of course the week I volunteer to be one of the class discussion leaders I have nothing. The reading was not cool or interesting and I had the hardest time coming up with something dynamic to engage my class. Yay for me! The following is my attempt at questions to stimulate the discussion my class will have later:

Before reading this I had never thought of the computer as an encyclopedia, but now more than ever we turn to our computers whenever we have questions. Nine out of ten conversations I have with my mother at some point one of us says, “let’s just google it.” Our computers remember everything for us. I know only two phone numbers by heart, my mother’s and my grandmother’s. I have hundreds of numbers stored in my phone though. Not just phone numbers but email addresses and physical addresses as well. I don’t even try to remember things anymore. I just store them on my computer and go on with my day.

Do our computers allow us to forget everything?

In a different class we talked about the idea of trust. We just trust that our machines and networks will work properly although we don’t really understand how they work or know how to repair them if the malfunction. A primary example is an ATM. We simply trust that the ATM and its network will just know that we deposited $200 and our online bank account will reflect.

Do we trust these machines to remember forever?

We know these. They're all over campus. And when we see them we assume that when we use them they will work.

We know these. They’re all over campus. And when we see them we assume that when we use them they will work.

What happens on that God forsaken day when we wake up and the computers have decided to forget everything too?

The Key to this is Awareness

Last week, my best friend and I attempted to have a conversation via text, nothing serious just some gossip about a mutual acquaintance being pregnant, and I was having a complete slow moment; my brain just was not comprehending what she was typing. Finally, she just gave up and called me. We ended up talking for at least an hour and it was enjoyable but I kept trying to check Facebook, Twitter, and email while she was talking to me.

I had to tell myself to stop it, just be in this moment, this phone conversation, and be ok with it.

On this journey with new media, I’m becoming much more aware of my use of computers and the Internet. Author, Howard Rhiengold asks his readers to do the same thing the excerpt my class is reading this week from his book, Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. We are not as good at dividing our attention as we think. In our attempt to remain connected to everyone, the whole world, we are starting to lose a grip on those closest to us. I noticed the same thing happening to me. My relationships with those I cannot text or Facebook, mainly my older relatives, falter greatly. Rhiengold also talks about his students using devices in class and how it bothers him; he knows he doesn’t have their full attention. It reminded me that I used my computer and phone during class. There are only six of us in there!

Where do I get the gall to just go off somewhere on my phone or computer in the middle of a class?

Finishing up Turkle’s Alone Together made me think about how I could be more healthy about my use of media in my life. She tells the story of a young man named Brenden who does not like to text because it cannot relay all the nuances of face- to-face communication. His need for face-to-face communication bothers his friends and girlfriend. But why do the people that claim to love him not want to talk to him? Why are they so picky about format? I thought that was unfair of them. After noticing these events I’ve decided that more telephone calls are in my future, less text messages. More house calls, less Facebook messages.

Even if I’m not totally unsuccessful, more “physical real” is good for me. If nothing else it will make me more aware of what is happening around me. I won’t misunderstand my friends text. I won’t space out during lunch with a friend. I will hear the entirety of my professor’s lecture.

This week I am determined to live in the physical real. No compromises.